+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

to convey the precious rose-tree into the
apartment of Mademoiselle de la Vallière.
But Le Nôtre rejoiced, for the fair one gave
him leave to come "each day and attend to
the welfare of his beloved flower.

The rose-tree soon became to the favourite
a mysterious talisman by which she estimated
the constancy of Louis the Fourteenth. She
watched with anxiety all its changes of
vegetation, trembling at the fall of a leaf, and
weeping whenever a new bud failed to replace
a withered blossom. Louise had yielded her
erring heart to the dreams of love, not to the
visions of ambition. "Tender, and ashamed
of being so," as Madame de Sevigné has
described her, the young girl mourned for her
fault at the foot of the altar. Remorse
punished her for her happiness ; and more
than once has the priest, who read first mass
at the chapel of Versailles, turned at the
sound of stifled sobs proceeding from the
Royal recess, and seen there a closely-veiled
kneeling figure.

The fallen angel still remembered heaven.

Thus passed ten years. At their end, the
rose-tree might be seen placed on a
magnificent stand in the Palace of St. Germain ;
but despite of Le Nôtre's constant care, the
flower bent sadly on its blighted stem. Near
it the Duchesse de la Vallière (for so she had
just been created) was weeping bitterly.

Her most intimate friend, Françoise
Athenaïs de Montemar, Comtesse de
Montespan, entered, and exclaimed, "What,
weeping, Louise ! Has not the King just given
you the tabouret as a fresh proof of his

Without replying, La Vallière pointed to
her rose.

"What an absurd superstition !" cried
Madame de Montespan, seating herself near
her friend. " 'Tis really childish to fancy
that the affections of a Monarch should follow
the destiny of a flower. Come, child," she
continued, playfully slapping the fair mourner's
hands with her fan, " you know you are
always adorable, and why should you not be
always adored ? "

"Because another has had the art to
supplant me."

Athenaïs bit her lip. Louise had at length
discovered that her pretended friend was
seeking to undermine her. On the previous
evening the King had conversed for a long
time with Madame de Montespan in the
Queen's apartments. He had greatly
enjoyed her clever mimicry of certain court
personages; and when La Vallière had
ventured to reproach him tenderly, he had

" Louise, you are silly ; your rose-tree
speaks untruly when it calumniates me !"

None but Athenaïs, to whom alone it had
been confided, could have betrayed the secret.
And now, at the entrance of her rival, La
Vallière hastened to dry up her tears, but
not so speedily as to prevent the other from
perceiving them. Her feigned caresses, and
ill-disguised lone of triumph, provoked Louise
to let her see that she discerned her treachery.
But Athenaïs pretended not to feel that the
shaft was aimed at her.

"Supplant you, dear Louise !" she said in a
tone of surprise; " it would be difficult to do
that, I should think, when the King is wholly
devoted to you !"

Rising with a careless air, she approached
the rose-tree, drew from her glove an almost
invisible phial, and, with a rapid gesture,
poured on its foot-stalk the corrosive liquid
which the tiny flask contained.

This was the third time that Madame de
Montespan had practised this unworthy
manœuvre, unknown to the sorrowful
favourite, who, as her insidious rival well knew,
would believe the infidelity of the King, only
on the testimony of his precious gift.

Next morning, Le Nôtre found the rose-tree
quite dead. The poor old man loved it
as if it had been his child, and his eyes were
filled with tears as he carried it to its

Then Louise felt, indeed, that no hope
remained. Pale and trembling, she took
a pair of scissors, cut off the withered
blossom, and placed it under a crystal vase.
Afterwards, falling on her knees, she prayed
to Heaven for strength to fulfil the resolution
she had made.

The age of Louis the Fourteenth passed
away, with its glory and with its crimes.
France had now reached that disastrous
epoch, when famine and pestilence mowed
down the peaceful inhabitants, and
Marlborough and Prince Eugene cut the royal
army to pieces on the frontiers.

One day, the death-bell tolled from a
convent tower in the Rue St. Jacques, and
two long files of female Carmelites bore, to
her last dwelling, one of the sisters of their
strict and silent order.

When the last offices were finished, and all
the nuns had retired to their cells, an old
man came and knelt beside the quiet grave.
His trembling hand raised a crystal vase
which had been placed on the stone; he took
beneath it a withered rose, which he
pressed to his lips, and murmured, in a voice
broken by sobs:--

"Poor heart ! Poor flower !"

The old man was Le Nôtre ; and the
Carmelite nun, buried that morning, was Sister
Louise de la Miséricorde, formerly Duchesse de
la Vallière.

Monthly Supplement to "HOUSEHOLD WORDS,"
Price 2d., Stamped 3d.


For the last Month was published with the Magazines.

RATlVE, being a complete record of the events for the
year 1850, can be had of all Booksellers.